Blog: Brandywine's Ballet Bag!

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  • The Basics of Balanchine

    Who is George Balanchine? You may have heard the name from our upcoming Fall Series this weekend, but who is this man that has been named “the father of American ballet” and is revered throughout the dance world?

    George Balanchine, regarded as the foremost contemporary choreographer in the world of ballet, was born in Russia and came to the United States in late 1933 following an early career throughout Europe. Balanchine came to America in 1933, and the first product of the Balanchine-Kirstein collaboration was the School of American Ballet, founded in 1934. The School remains in operation to this day, training students for the New York City Ballet and companies throughout the United States and the world. From the opening of the school until his death, Balanchine served as artistic director for the New York City Ballet, choreographing (either wholly or in part) the majority of the productions the company has introduced since its inception. His complete list of works included 465 pieces. He passed away in 1983.

     His work Serenade that will be performed by Brandywine Ballet was the first original ballet Balanchine created in America and is one of the signature works of New York City Ballet’s repertory. The first performance of Serenade was on June 10, 1934, by students of the School of American Ballet, at Felix Warburg’s estate, White Plains, New York. The ballet is performed by 28 dancers in blue costumes in front of a blue background. Originating it as a lesson in stage technique, Balanchine worked unexpected rehearsal events into the choreography. When one student fell, he incorporated it. Another day, a student arrived late, and this too became part of the ballet. After its initial presentation, Serenade was reworked several times. In its present form there are four movements — “Sonatina,” “Waltz,” “Russian Dance,” and “Elegy.” The last two movements reverse the order of Tschaikovsky’s score, ending the ballet on a note of sadness. Serenade is a fascinating “insiders look” into the dynamics of the dance studio and Balanchine’s unique method of creating a new ballet.


    Choreography by George Balanchine

    © The George Balanchine Trust



    Serenade for Strings in C, Op. 48

    Peter Ilyitch Tschaikovsky





    Tim Early